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New 'eLearning Centers' Bring Technology to Rural Kentucky

A joint project between Murray State University and two state agencies is bringing free computers and broadband Internet to rural Kentucky, according to a recent story by WKMS, one of the state's public radio stations.

The three new "eLearning Centers" are located in several of the most isolated counties in Kentucky, where Internet access is often lacking. The goal of the centers is to raise education attainment levels of community members by providing Internet and broadband access to students, as well as trainings and classes for adults. Nationwide,  rural adults are less likely to have a college degree than urban adults, and rural students are less likely to attend a four-year college than their urban peers.

The centers are part of a state initiative to improve high-speed Internet access throughout Kentucky. In 2012, only 67 percent of homes in the state had access to high-speed Internet, compared to the national average of more than 73 percent.  A 2013 report found that only about 61 percent of homes had access to Internet that was fast enough for distance learning courses, which can play a critical role in furthering education in rural areas.

In recent years, several states have attempted to improve rural technology and Internet access. Tennessee recently launched mobile computer labs that allow rural residents to take high school equivalency exams online.  In West Virginia, a private-public collaborative project has provided laptops to nearly 900 students in McDowell County, and has expanded Internet access to 10,000 households. 

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